Archive for Friday, February 6, 2004

Ex-Gopher happy to be a Jayhawk

February 6, 2004


In two years at the University of Minnesota, Charlton Keith grew accustomed to a top-notch training table, a major-college weight room, playing in packed Big Ten Conference stadiums and having his room and tuition paid for by the U of M.

Accommodations weren't quite as posh at Minnesota West Community College, where the defensive end spent his sophomore season.

"Here, you don't have a meal plan or weights," said Keith, who signed a national letter of intent Wednesday to play for Kansas University. "It's hard for me to work out. We had a good training table at Minnesota. It was a big transition for me."

The 6-foot-5 Keith weighed 235 pounds when he transferred to Minnesota West, but he slipped to 225 this season. Keith had to pay for his tuition, room and meals because MWCC doesn't award athletic scholarships.

Life will be a little easier in May when he comes to KU.

"I can just concentrate on school and playing football," he said.

And lifting weights. KU strength and conditioning coach Chris Dawson, who was Keith's strength coach at Minnesota, said he'd like the transfer to start the 2004 season at 245 pounds.

"That strength center is beautiful," Keith said of Anderson Strength and Conditioning Center, which he toured with Dawson during his campus visit last weekend.

The recruiting process was an odd one for Keith, who went unnoticed by most programs. He received scholarship offers from Miami of Ohio, Houston and Akron, not exactly the options you would expect for a player who was a Sporting News Freshman All-American two years ago.

"I think a lot of coaches didn't know where I was," Keith said. "It was hard for me to sit down and call every school I thought I could play for. I used my recourses to get back to Division One."

Keith sent out highlight tapes to a few schools and kept in touch with Dawson, who recommended the former Gopher to KU coach Mark Mangino.

"As soon as we saw the tape, we knew he was a guy that could help us," Mangino said.

It wasn't always this difficult for Keith to attract attention. At Buchtel High in Akron, Ohio, Keith was the Ohio player of the year on offense and defense as a senior when he made 71 tackles and 10 sacks and also passed for 1,307 yards and 11 touchdowns.

After spending a season as a red-shirt linebacker at Minnesota in 2001, he started six games for coach Glen Mason at defensive end in 2002 and ranked among the Big Ten leaders with seven sacks.

Minnesota, however, moved the freshman to linebacker before the Music City Bowl. When he didn't start the bowl game, Keith decided it was time to make a move of his own.

After transferring to a small junior college, Keith played receiver, tight end and defensive end for Minnesota West. In addition to making 17 receptions, he had 61 tackles -- including 18 for losses and 11 sacks -- one interception, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in nine games.

After two games MWCC coach Jeff Linder used Keith primarily on defense, where he often was subjected to double-teams.

"He's so fast and such a big target, but he was too valuable on defense," Linder said. "He was too much of a problem for teams at full strength, rather than playing on both sides of the ball. Even the best linemen in the league were struggling with him. We were in the quarterback's face every time. That's a fact. He was that good.

"It's a great pickup for Kansas. I'm eager to watch him. He was a man amongst boys at this level. He's going to do some really great things."

Keith is eager to go to work with Dawson and show he belongs at the level where his collegiate career began.

"I'm real hungry," he said. "I can't wait to get back on the field. ... I have a lot to prove."

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